Why Scott’s Addition needs better sidewalks

In two images.

From TransitCenter’s Who’s On Board 2016 report comes this graph that shows if someone can walk to transit they are more likely to be a frequent transit rider.

image

And then, from the Richmond Transit Network Plan’s High Ridership concept, comes this map of bus lines near Scott’s Addition:

image

Most of Scott’s Addition is within walking distance of either BRT (the black line) or the #10 (the red line). It’d certainly help encourage transit ridership in and out of the neighborhood if the sidewalks weren’t all crumbly and nonexistent.

Say something nice

Transportation people work hard at their jobs, too. We should say thanks.

From Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit:

When I redesigned Corvallis, Oregon’s bus system in 1995, the local newspaper’s coverage of the change focused on one senior housing complex, where people were enraged because I’d moved their bus stop around the corner to a different side of their building. Nobody in the local media cared about the dramatic improvements to mobility that the new network would provide. There are two morals to this story: (1) If your transit agency proposes a service change that looks to you like an improvement, send them a positive comment, because regardless of the proposal’s benefits, they’ll probably be bombarded by negative ones from people objecting to any kind of change. (2) We need better tools for making the benefits of a transit proposal visible to the ordinary citizen, so that a larger share of the population can make self-interested judgments that will weigh the advantages of a change, not just its inconvenience.

I realize Jarrett Walker (the very same Jarrett Walker who’s rejiggering our bus system as we speak!) is coming at this from a policy perspective. We need the folks with decision making power to hear from the people who support these projects, because they’re definitely hearing from the people who don’t.

But I think there’s more to it than that! It’s super draining to work long and hard on something you believe in only to end up with an inbox full of angry, grammatically-incorrect emails. I empathize! And, at least for me, while my brain knew that there existed people who were supportive of what I was doing, the casual “you suck” emails stuck with me—especially in the absence of a resounding number of “you’re great!” emails.

With that in mind: Here’s a (extremely short and totally incomplete) list of local folks pushing Richmond’s transportation systems forward (with all of their might!), and they deserve your kind words!

Who else am I missing? Who else do we need to shower with praise for their hard work?

And, as always, you can contact your elected officials (here are all of their email addresses plus the email addresses of everyone running for office) to tell them how much you love the Floyd Avenue Bike/Walk Street, or how excited you are about the impending bike share program, or how you just can’t wait for BRT to launch next fall. Those cats are on the receiving end of a lot of negative vibes, so a kind supportive word would be well received. Plus it lets them know that real people really do support these projects.

Update(s)

  • Sam reminds me to say thank you to your bus driver as you get off the bus.

Make public transportation part of Chesterfield’s blueprint

If you’re a Chesterfieldian, here’s your easy-to-do civic action for the week.

If you live, work, worship, or chill in Chesterfield, you’ve got a great opportunity to inform the direction the county is headed over the next couple of years.

The county’s Board of Supervisors and School Board recently released Blueprint Chesterfield, an open survey that county leaders will use “to shape the five-year plan during the upcoming budget process.” Unfortunately, public transportation is completely missing from the survey! This bums me out and should bum you out as well. To get a feel for the true bummerness of it all, read this Q&A with Todd Wilson of Cornerstone Revitalization Center:

As impoverished areas persist, goods and services leave the area, forcing residents to travel farther for the necessities they need to purchase. This dramatically increases the cost and further stretches the limited income they have. As tax income decreases, those goods and services tend to decline as well. Schools in these areas are hard-pressed to offer the same educational experience as those in more affluent areas.

Even our road system in Chesterfield County enables most of its middle class to navigate throughout its geography without even having to see the impoverished communities it hosts. These areas become economic wastelands where little or no opportunities exist. Pair that with a largely driverless population without any means of transportation, or even sidewalks, and you’ve created a desert island of poverty that is “out of sight and out of mind.”

The lack of public transportation in Chesterfield County is a Real Thing that needs to be discussed, so it’s Real Unfortunate that it’s not included as an option on the Blueprint Chesterfield survey. Luckily, free-entry text fields to the rescue!

OK, here’s my transit advocate-y call-to-action: If you’re a Chesterfieldian, fill out the survey and do these things:

  1. List “public transportation” as one of the three most important priorities for the county to focus on over the next five years (that’s question #1).
  2. Write in “public transportation” as a county service that is important to you (that’s question #3).

Busin’ to books

How would a ridership-focused GRTC affect access to Richmond’s libraries?

I read this eye-opening thing about libraries, shared by Hayley, and immediately thought about how Richmond’s Transit Network Plan would affect access to our libraries.

image

If we adopted something akin to the High Ridership Concept of the Richmond Transit Network Plan, seven of nine of Richmond’s libraries would sit on top of frequent (every 15 minutes) service. Compare that to today (see below), where most of the libraries are accessibly by 30-minute service.

Doubling the frequency of bus service is a huge benefit of the High Ridership Concept, but also! Glory in its more grid-like structure! From my house on the Northside I would be able to get to all nine libraries with at most one transfer—while avoiding the downtown transfer plaza completely! In the current setup, to get to the North Avenue library for my house would take about 27 minutes and 17 minutes of that would be walking. It’d only take 49 minutes to walk the entire way there.

A more frequent, faster, and easier to understandable GRTC means better access to all sorts of things for all sorts of people. Just look at all of those red lines in the High Ridership Concept, and start to imagine all of the places you’ll go!

Below

Here’s the Familiar Concept of the Richmond Transit Network Plan, which is close to what we’ve got now. Notice that while you can still get to the libraries by bus, it’s not always super clear how one would go about doing that (say you want to check out a book on brewing after a visit to Hardywood?). Also note that service to the West End library is better in the Familiar Concept than it is in the High Ridership Concept. It’s an example of the types of decisions we’ll have to make as we work through adopting one of these concepts.

image

Coverage, Ridership, or Familiar? CHOOSE WISELY.

Richmond is in the process of redesigning its bus system. Now we get to decide how we want it to work!

Today the Richmond Transit Network Plan folks released three “concepts” of what the future of Richmond’s bus system could look like. Each concept is a different answer to The Big Question the entire Transit Network Plan process is set up to ask: “Ridership or Coverage?”

To get a handle on what those two words mean as they relate to rejiggering a bus system, you can just read the extremely interesting and beautiful 60-page PDF entitled The Richmond Transit Choices Report, or, if you’d rather spend your time doing other things, read the following couple sentences:

If your bus system is stoked on ridership, you’re gonna be into getting as many people onto buses at the same time as possible. If you’re real into coverage, you’ll focus on making sure that everyone has access to at least some buses. These goals conflict—at least if we’re working under the assumption of a fixed budget, which, duh. To increase ridership you’d do things like consolidate lines and make them insanely frequent. To increase coverage you’d run wiggly bus routes within a couple blocks of everyone’s home. The former makes transit a lot farther away from some folks, while the latter makes the buses very slow. See, conflict! They do a much better job explaining all of this over the course of the 60 pages in the Choices Report. You should read it! Don’t be afraid of it!

Luckily, our answer to The Big Question, doesn’t have to be just ridership or solely coverage. It’ll be a uniquely Richmond spot along a continuum with ridership at one end and coverage at the other. We get to decide, informed by our values as a community, where we want to spend our bus transit money. By the way, the amount of budget allocated to ridership goals vs. coverage goals is how we’ll end up measuring all of this—our current allocation is about 50–50.

The three choices below all do different things. The first optimizes the system for coverage, the second optimizes it for ridership, the third keeps things nice and familiar.

The coolest part about this whole process is that we get to decide, together, what we want our system to look like.

High Coverage Concept

image

This guy seeks to minimize walking distance to bus stops. Somethings to notice: There are a lot more lines than and they’re all running about every 30 minutes. In this concept, the budget is still split 50–50 between ridership and coverage goals, but they’ve cleaned things up a bit from the way they work currently.

High Ridership Concept

image

Behold! This is what an 80–20 split between ridership and coverage looks like. Check out all of those bright red lines that run every 15 minutes! A system designed like this would allow you to walk out of your door to a bus stop without ever looking at a schedule. That’s the magic of high-frequency lines.

Familiar Concept

image

The status quo! Booooring. Just kidding—lots of folks ride the bus currently, and this map seeks to minimize the disruption to those people. Notice how squiggly and uneven all the lines are compared to the High Coverage concept.


Like I said earlier, we’re looking to find our place on a spectrum. None of these maps is the map. We’ll work, through the magic of public meetings and contact forms, to come to some sort of consensus and find our own This is Richmond Concept.

Public meetings and contact forms

Ways for you to weigh in:

  • Facebook
  • @RichmondTNP
  • July 26th; Southside Community Services Center; 4100 Hull Street
  • July 27th; DMV Richmond Central Services; 2300 West Broad Street
  • August 3rd; Powhatan Community Center; 5051 Northampton Street
  • August 4th; Community High School; 201 Brookland Park Boulevard